Monday, July 28, 2014

Josh and Rissa's Wedding and Hoopla Part 1: The Ceremony: You know, the “Wedding” part of “Wedding and Hoopla.”

This is what they call a "formal picture."
On Sunday June 22nd, 2014 at the Codman Estate in Lincoln, MA, Riss and I celebrated our relationship with friends and family. Unfortunately not everyone could make it, so I've recreated, as best as possible the course of the day here. We'll get all the sappy stuff out in this first post and all the hoopla in the next.

Our friend Alyson (who earned a Master's from the Divinity School at Harvard, making her, technically a “Master of Divinity,”) was our officiant. Our friends Drew and Shannon were the readers. Not pictured, the frog in the reflecting pool who croaked with an almost unnerving sense of timing and the absolutely perfect breeze.

Alyson's Remarks
Mastering Divinity like He-Man Mastered the Universe
A very, serious occasion
This is how you "Afternoon Beverage."
We live in an interesting time for marriages. We live in a time where the definition and purpose of marriage is hotly debated and rapidly changing – we can turn on C-SPAN and see politicians debating the very essence of marriage, which they are coming to realize is not derived from the gender of its participants, but their commitment to one another.

Ceremonies are changing too. We’ve learned that weddings can be as meaningful in a beautiful grove, surrounded by nature and sanctioned by community, as they can be in a church, sanctioned by God.

But one type of marriage has been left out of this debate. There is still one take on marriage that people don’t know quite what to do with, and I want to stand up for it today – I want to stand up for the overdue marriage.

I first met Josh and Rissa ten years ago, and at that time they had been dating for four years. So, by some people’s standards, that means they should have gotten married two years before I met them, a decade ago. That is a long time. That is enough time for the question to shift from “Why aren’t you getting married?” to, “What’s the point, at this point?”

But what a beautiful thing to stand here today and celebrate a history of fourteen years of finely aged love and commitment. My favorite book, Middlemarch, is full of ill-fated marriages. But there is one moment where Dr. Lydgate, stuck in a marriage with a vain and immature woman he chose too quickly, realizes what marriage could be. Eliot writes, “He was beginning now to imagine how two creatures who loved each other, and had a stock of thoughts in common, might laugh over their shabby furniture, and their calculations about how far they could afford butter and eggs.”

That sounds like Josh and Rissa to me.

Of course, the danger of marrying late is that the blood may have cooled – is there any passion left? But here again, I would argue that an early marriage poses a greater danger. Margaret Fuller wrote about a newlywed couple she knew whose joy in coupledom seems to have deflated at the onset of matrimony. She wondered: “Is it that whatever seems complete sinks into the finite?” For many hopeful couples, once the frontier of marriage is reached, all new horizons seem to fade.

Ambiance. There was also ambiance.
This will not happen to Josh and Rissa. They have never let life bore them, and they are not getting married because they are bored. One thing I admire about Josh and Rissa is that they have incredible integrity about following their ludicrous dreams. They both stubbornly pursue the lifestyles they want to live – and these are not easy lifestyles. These are lifestyles that require patience, persistence, and a tolerance for shabby furniture. These traits are admirable in an individual, but even more so in a couple who each support one another in these pursuits. I have no fear that a ring on their fingers will sink their lives into the “finite” – the common stock of thoughts they share will continue to make their living room one of the most interesting salons in Somerville.

And this is why I want to stick up for the overdue marriage. It is because of the steadiness and wisdom they have built over fourteen years, that life can continue to be a beautiful risk.

Today Josh and Rissa can say simultaneously “We made it,” and “we have so much longer to enjoy it.” It is an occasion worthy of our most sacred ceremony.

Drew's 873rd wedding reading.

from Walt Whitman's “Song of the Open Road”

I do not offer the old smooth prizes,
But offer rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is called riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve.
However sweet the laid-up stores,
However convenient the dwellings,
You shall not remain there.
However sheltered the port,
And however calm the waters,
You shall not anchor there.
However welcome the hospitality that welcomes you
You are permitted to receive it but a little while
Afoot and lighthearted, take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before you,
The long brown path before you,
leading wherever you choose.
Say only to one another:
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law:
Will you give me yourself?
Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Jeannette Freakin' Winterson. (Well, Shannon reading Winterson.)
from Art and Lies by Jeanette Winterson
"What marries me to you? Is it a piece of paper? Then I am not married to you. Is it Church approval? Then I am not married to you. Is it the fact of a roof, the fact of a bed, the fact of two keys in one lock? Then I am not married to you. Is it the Eye of the Law? Then I am not married to you.

If it is the daily pleasure in your face. If it is the quickening of my spirits at your face, if it is your face I seek when I seek no other, if it is the love of you that is consent, if it is consent to be of the same mind, then let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.

And love? The brazier where I burn. Extravagant, profuse, excessive, beyond bounds. Out of our risk comes our safety, not the small sad life that will cling to anything because it has nothing. You are not a raft. I am not a sailor. You are not weak. I am more than a strong arm. I want to love you well, not to lose you in children and objects. I want to love you well, but to love you well I shall have to be in love with more than love. I shall have to find in myself the emotional extravagance that fits me to stay in one place."

Alyson: For their vows, Rissa and Josh have adapted a passage from Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov.

Josh: Whenever I start thinking of my love, I am in the habit of immediately drawing radii from my love – from my heart, from the tender nucleus of a personal matter – to remote points of the universe.

Adapted Nabokov
Rissa: Something impels me to measure the consciousness of my love against such unimaginable things as the behavior of nebulae, the unknowledgeable beyond the unknown, the distance into distance, the interpenetrations of space and the small act of our smiles together.

Josh: When that slow-motion, silent explosion of love takes place in me, unfolding its melting fringes and overwhelming me with the sense of something much vaster, much more enduring and powerful than the accumulation of matter or energy in any imaginable cosmos, then my mind cannot but pinch itself to see if it is really awake.

Rissa: I have to make a rapid inventory of the universe, just as someone in a dream tries to condone the absurdity of her position by making sure she is dreaming.

Josh:Both dreaming and waking people have long tried to see the time and space of our enduring universe in metaphors of the smallest objects we can hold, like a grain of rice, a dust of stone, or a speck of sand.

Rissa: I have to make a rapid inventory of the universe, just as someone in a dream tries to condone the absurdity of her position by making sure she is dreaming.

It bears repeating: Adapted Nabokov

Josh: After today, instead of looking in old metaphors and tiny things, I vow to see the time and space of our enduring universe in Rissa.

Alyson: Tom Robbins says this about love, in his novel Still Life with Woodpecker.

“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”

Josh, take this ring from Beverly, and put it on Rissa’s left hand. Do you promise to aid and abet the ultimate outlaw and to love Rissa with no strings attached and for free?

Josh: Yes.

Rissa, take this ring from Beth and put it on Josh’s left hand. Do you promise to aid and abet the ultimate outlaw and to love Josh with no strings attached and for free?

Rissa: Yes.

Alyson: “By the power vested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I now pronounce Joshua Douglas Cook and Carissa Michelena Leal, married. You may now kiss each other.”

Artisanal Sock Level Classy
The Cavalry.


  1. Congratulations! Nice writeup about your wedding. I've always loved that Whitman excerpt, but I confess that I didn't know it from just being a Whitman fan, but from reading Love Story. But I figure if Love Story brings readers like me to Whitman's poetry, then it can't be all bad, right?

    I especially enjoyed the shots with the parasols and the socks.

  2. Dearest Cousin and Cousin of the Heart congratulations.
    Your day was most special.
    May your marriage be filled with as much beauty and joy as the day itself